There's an old saying: "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is present, does it make a sound"?
A good question, taking into account a long-running local story some people apparently didn't hear about.
At some point last year, Wood County began discussing a proposed fire fee for residents living outside the city of Parkersburg-in other words, for the rest of the county that is served by volunteer fire departments.
There were discussions at county commission meetings, public nighttime meetings (including one I covered that was well-attended), and, eventually, a vote by the commission to enact the fee.
But it didn't go into effect immediately. As required, it was followed by a 45-day period where residents could comment further, and, if they chose, start drives to put the issue before voters. (There was one such drive that resulted in 100 signatures, well below what is necessary to put it on the ballot.)
All of this was covered and reported by The News Center and the Parkersburg News and Sentinel and even by other media outlets.
Then, this fall, the bills went out to affected residents. In spite of this lengthy discussion and extensive media coverage, some property owners were surprised to see they were receiving these bills. Some who contacted the Wood County Courthouse actually thought the whole thing is a scam. (It isn't.)
Raising the question: do people pay attention to the media? Do they only pay attention to certain media, that isn't covering local news? Are people so turned off by what they believe is "bias" they only look at news outlets they agree with?
My theories: More and more people get their news from national cable networks-and, around here, one channel in particular-and don't seek out news from any other source. Others go to the internet (and, if you're reading this, you may be one of them), but they go to certain web pages where local news isn't covered. There also probably was more attention paid to the national and statewide political races than any other story this year.
Another factor: I hear comments from people from time to time that "I get my news from the Huntington-Charleston TV stations, because WTAP only gives news from Ohio". Yes, as General Manager Roger Sheppard has pointed out more often than I remember, we do cover a lot of news from Washington County, but only because it is located in our viewing area.
I don't have the numbers to back this up, but I believe we've done more news this year from Wood County and West Virginia than anywhere else. While you're reading this, go to our news page and look at the number of stories we did during the spring, summer and early fall about the C8 issue in Vienna (which, I recall, is located in West Virginia).
All of the above might be reasons certain people (to be fair, Wood County officials said it was about 1,000 out of 23,000 bills sent) never heard about a story that was covered so much during the past 18 months.
I would argue they were all out of the country-but they still had the internet.